Sorting Through Family Drama

Healing can take time.

Genesis 25:1-11 (ESV)

Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshurim, Letushim, and Leummim. The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah. Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.

These are the days of the years of Abraham's life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with Sarah his wife. After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

Abraham has a whole passel of sons by Keturah, but they’re not important. Abraham is nice enough to them, but the passage reiterates that Isaac is the sole heir. These other sons are sent away to the east – specifically away from Isaac. The Bible doesn’t say why Abraham did this but it was presumably to protect Isaac. Abraham has functioned like a king his whole life. When a king does this, the motive is obvious – to protect the heir to the crown from other rivals.

But that makes the next paragraph all the more surprising. What’s going on with Ishmael showing up to help bury Abraham? Being the actual first born, he’s a much bigger threat to “the crown” than the others, yet he shows up. He’s been gone since Chapter 21. Why did he come back?

The Bible doesn’t tell us. However, one clue is that it was Sarah who wanted Ishmael sent off. Now with her gone, they’ve reconciled. While Ishmael didn’t inherit Abraham’s wealth, God did bless him saying, “I will make him into a great nation.” – Genesis 21:18 (ESV)

Ishmael is family in a way that Keturah’s sons are not.


As crazy as all this family drama seems, it’s less crazy than much of what we have today. People just seem determined to ruin their lives. That’s no surprise, given our sinful nature, but it’s sad.

Pray for families. Ask the Lord to heal them. Also, ask God to point you toward someone who needs encouraging, or even help keeping their family together.

People often just need a friend to walk with them and share their pain. That can help them talk through their difficulties and keep them emotionally healthy. It can even keep them from doing something in haste that they’ll later regret.

It’s always good to comfort hurting people. If the opportunity presents itself, take the time to answer this most holy calling.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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